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Everett Piper: University, not a Day Care

Apr 5, 2016 by

An Interview with Everett Piper: University, not a Day Care

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Dr. Piper, for our readers, could you briefly tell us about your education and experience?

My undergraduate degree is from Spring Arbor University.  My masters’ degree is from Bowling Green State University and my Ph.D. is from Michigan State University.  I have worked most all of my career in higher education holding a variety of administrative positions ranging from dean of students to vice president of advancement, executive assistant to the president and vice president for capital projects.  I have served as president of Oklahoma Wesleyan for the past 14 years.

2) I suspect you are most well known for your comment “This is not a Day Care: It’s a University”. Can you provide a backdrop as to the origins of this comment?

As I’ve mentioned in a variety of media outlets from Bill O’Reilly to NBC Today, my criticism in this “Not a Day Care” piece was directed more at our culture and the broader academy than it was at my own students.  Frankly, the OKWU students are exceptional.  And even more candidly, the atmosphere of academic freedom at OKWU is much more conducive to an open and robust exchange of ideas than that of many other universities you see featured on the nightly news.  My exasperation was directed at the contemporary “College” with a capital C, if you will, and its willingness to disregard classical liberalism and its rich history of intellectual freedom in favor of what I believe is a kind of ideological fascism fueled by a spirit of self-absorption, victimization and anger.

3) In your mind, why do you think so many students arrive at college or university, so ill prepared?

Our educational model is broken.  It has been dumbed down to the inferior at the expense of the exceptional. We seem to be more interested in learning what is “common” than understanding what is great.  Education has become more about acquiring information than teaching ethics; in getting a good career than building good character; in fueling victimization rather than finding virtue.  As C.S. Lewis told us, “we are too easily satisfied.”

We seem to be content with “making mud pies in the back allies and slums when we could be having a holiday at the beach.”  Education has become utilitarian.  It is more pragmatic than principled.  It has become functional and ugly rather than inspiring and beautiful.

4) It’s a simple concept- but why is it important to get across–“Why Ideas Matter?”

Richard Weaver warned us in 1948 in his seminal work titled: “Ideas Have Consequences,” that ideas have consequences.  No idea lies fallow.  All ideas bear fruit.  Good ideas bear good culture, good community, good families and good government and bad ideas bear bad culture, bad community, bad families and bad government.  Ideas matter.  What is taught today in the classroom will be practiced tomorrow in our boardrooms, our living rooms, in our courts, our Congress and our churches.  We can’t keep feeding our next generation a steady diet of ideological carcinogens and then be surprised when they develop a cancer of the soul and mind.

5) Taking that one step further- why is knowledge, information, theory, and data important to learn and master?

At the risk of stating the obvious, human beings stand alone in our ability to even understand such concepts.  Knowledge and the assumed ability to debate, disagree, argue and come to conclusions is a unique characteristic of being human. Animals don’t have this capacity.  When I drive to and from Tulsa I pass by many Oklahoma ranches with thousands of cattle grazing in the fields and, you know, I have never seen any of them arguing with one another.  I have labrador retrievers and I have never once seen them engage in a debate.  We are the imago dei we are not the imago dog.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “I always like a dog, I just don’t like him spelled backward.”  Poor education results in “misspelling” the most important things in life, i.e. reversing definitions and calling good evil and evil good, darkness light and light darkness; calling dogs god and God a dog, if you will.  History tells us that such intellectual, moral and spiritual dyslexia never ends well.  See Pol Pot, Moa, Mussolini and Robespierre as but a few examples of my point.

6) There is all this talk about college debt – is there a factor or variable to blame? Parents, students, the government?

I personally think this is overblown in the case of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.  We fund nearly 42 percent of the cost of tuition in grants and scholarships.  The average debt for an OKWU graduate is less than $21,000.  So, for the price of taking out a loan for a Honda Accord you can get an education grounded in the classical understanding of liberty, liberation and freedom and the pursuit of virtue and veritas.  Not a bad deal in my way of thinking.

7) Now, I am going to delve into politically incorrect waters- why do you think religion, spirituality, the Bible should be taught on college or university campuses? And should it be mandatory?

Oklahoma Wesleyan is a Christian university and we, therefore, owe it to our students to be exactly who we claim to be.  If we didn’t infuse our entire curriculum and our entire community with a Judeo-Christian ethic and Biblical worldview we would be guilty of false advertising. There is one book that I am aware of that has served as the foundation for the greatest amount of freedom human history has ever known and that book is the Bible.  It served as the foundation for the Magna Carta and as the premise to the Constitution.

Wilberforce used it to fight the slave trade and MLK used it to fight for civil rights.  Jefferson memorized it and Lincoln extolled it.  Washington and Adams revered it and FDR praised it.  Yes, I think it should be taught.  Why not? What are we afraid of? Are we worried it might change us for the good as it has the millions who preceded us?  In reading it, we might actually be challenged with a fascinating idea that God is God and we are not.  We might find our natural tendency to narcissism to be a bit misplaced.

8) If there were one question that you would want to ask an entering freshman what would it be?

Do you want a “degree in opinions” or are you actually interested in learning something about what is true, right, real, enduring and immutable: learning those things that are revealed by God and not just constructed by man?

9) What have I neglected to ask?

Our culture hangs in the balance.  If we don’t get education right all else that follows will be wrong.  Ideas are the currency of culture.  Ideas set the context for human freedom but they also build walls for human bondage.

Let me quote Chesterton again, “If you get rid of the big laws of God, you don’t get liberty, but rather thousands of little laws that rush in to fill the vacuum.”  Pursuing and understanding these “big laws” is the ultimate goal of a classical “liberal” education. For, in owning and honoring those few simple laws (perhaps only ten?) we will find liberation and celebrate liberty!  As someone once said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free?”

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  1. G.R.Williams

    From an old Mason; I tip my hat to you sir.

  2. Mary Bennett

    Dear Dr. Piper,
    I just read your article. “This is a university, not a day-care center”. There was a link to this in the National Catholic Register. BRAVO!
    Thank you for speaking the Truth in Love!
    Mary P. (Patty) Bennett

  3. W.T.Tanner

    Thank you, Dr. Piper.

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